Gunung Kerinci in Sumatra is the highest peak in Indonesia outside Irian Jaya. It is also the highest volcano in South East Asia. It last erupted around 1970. It is currently releasing large quantities of vapour and is under a "stage one" observation alert by local authorities. A nice climb going through undisturbed rain forest for most of the time. The summit region is scree. No technical mountaineering skills necessary. A pretty straight forward hike. Lots of wildlife if you take your time in the forest to look around. For a volcanic report read what the Smithsonian has to say about Kerinci under the links section.
You have to get yourself to Padang on the south coast of Sumatra and then by bus/hire car to Kayu Aro/ Kersik Tua. 5-6 hours. An interesting windy road. Bring pills or plastic bags if you are prone to car sickness. The starting point for the climb is Kersik Tua. Kersik Tua is reached by bus or minibus from Padang within 5-6h. Most of the homestays here (and some private owners of motor cycles) offer the 5 km ride to the forest edge (presently 5000 rupies).
The summit is within Kerinci-Seblat Nationalpark, thus a small fee is collected (typically in the homestay). Tourists are supposed to have a photo copy of your passport to leave. The further away from Jakarta the less they care for red tape. Just be polite and leave a tip and a contact address just in case ...... We didn't see any check points en route.
The dry season (april to september) is the obvious choice. It can rain at anytime in the Bukit Barisan so make sure your gear is well wrapped up plastic so at least you have something dry to put on if you do get soaked. We went at the end of August and it was pouring in the valleys but dry above the clouds at 3,000m
Kersik Tua has several homestays. It is possible, to climb the summit from here within the day, and return in the late evening. This has the apparent disadvantage, that you stay in the summit region around noon, when visibility typically is nil (see below). There are several shelters and camping grounds on the summit trail. The best place to spend the night before summiting is shelter 2. Note, that there are many shelters and would be shelters on summit trail. Most of them are broken, and their names and numbers are highly illogical. Do not assume, that shelter 3 follows shelter 2 (just to give an example)!!! There are two shelters with complete roofs, where sleeping without a tent is possible (though not really recomended, because of the rats). These shelters are excellent for birdwatchers, but much too low for climbers. To cut a long story short: After you have passed many shelters and so called shelters, when the trees are giving way to bushes, you will come across a round red signpost and other signs, indicating shelter 2. (3,060m)There is no shelter at all (a ruin of a shelter), and you have passed more than 3 shelters. But this is, where you should pitch up your tent! Sometimes (e.g. april 2002) drops of water are available here, but better don’t rely on it. Drinking water certainly is an issue on this climb. The water in the summit region is full of sulphur, and the rainforest below might be drippling from every single leaf, but on the same time be devoid of a single stream. If you have a tent and a sleeping bag I (DD)would reccommend staying at shelter 3 (3,302m) at the edge of the bushline. The trail from shelter 2 (Marked)to shelter 3 (No marking just flat spots) is quite steep and eroded. Probably the hardest section of the climb. Shelter 3 is more exposed but the views are better and it is just a couple of hours to the summit. Water can be found down the gulley from shelter 3 to the left facing the summit but frequently contaminated by human excrement. Regardless ..tell your guide shelter 3 if the weather looks OK.
The homestays in Kersik Tua (especially of the Subandi family) are the only source of information. Pak Subandi can arrange anything for a price! Take a guide, a porter and lots of water and enjoy. The locals are great for spotting wildlife in the forrest. Kerinci is currently emmitting vapour clouds (Sept 2002)so best check with the smithsonian pages on worlwide volcanic activity to see what it is doing. We didn't smell any sulphur at the summit but did spot a dead pig 50m from the summit which had us all guessing. Best climb in morning as vapour clouds were blowing over the summit trail in the afternoon. Follow the advice of your guide re conditions and volcanic activity.
A sleeping bag, maybe a tent, any shoes with good tread, a sweater and wind / rain protection is all you need. Some of these items can be hired in Subandi's Homestay in Kersik Tua. Take a guide so you don't get lost. Take a tent if you are sleeping in shelter 2 or 3. It idid not seem as cold as the mountains in Java...I estimate min temps of 8-10 C
No useful map available for mountaineering. General: Sumatra 1:1500000. Munich (Nelles Verlag), no publishing date given (they want to sell it longterm ...)
More information on kerinci can be found at: www.groups.msn.com/javalava Java lava will be climbing Kerinci mid 2005 ex Jakarta. details on the web site